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TNCP Review (9) Black Dolls Part 2, reviews the national history of Black dolls with Rina Risper

By TNCP Review

In episode 9 of the TNCP Review, publisher and show host, Rina Risper, has a discussion with co-host, Nova Wallace, about the national history of dolls, the National Negro Doll Company, and The Strong National Museum of Play.

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Negro Doll Company was a deeply political project. With the defeat of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow, the new black elite challenged disfranchisement, economic and sexual exploitation, and white supremacist violence in varied ways, from militant direct action to black enterprise. But what united their efforts was their advocacy for race pride, especially among black children. To protect youths against the racist images of black people popularized after emancipation, African American social reformers championed refined and intelligent black dolls as a means to teach black children “that there is some pride, some merit, some worth and something to be admired in dark skin.”

In an effort to bring respectable black dolls to Nashville, Richard Henry Boyd—owner of several businesses in Nashville including the Globe and the National Baptist Publishing Board—turned to Europe. There, manufacturers in Germany had revolutionized the use of unglazed porcelain, or bisque, to craft an array of darker-hued dolls. Sometime in 1907, Boyd convinced a German doll company to design several prototypes using this technique.

According to one account, Boyd sent photos of black Americans to the manufacturer to ensure that they truly convey, not caricaturize, the likeness of their black subjects. The following July, Boyd showcased the figurines at the Globe and Publishing Board offices where black Nashvillians, young and old, eagerly inspected the novel specimens. Orders for the dolls were immediate and sizable, so much so that Boyd decided to form a firm that could accommodate the orders in time for the Christmas season.

Risper and Wallace also review these National Toy Hall of Fame inductees:

Masters of the Universe, 2022 inductee (Sun-Man was recently added to the Masters of the Universe line by licensing agreement with Olmec Toys and Yla Eason)

Super Soaker, 2015 inductee

Baby Nancy, 2020 inductee


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